Flurry of activity by Facilities promotes student rest

New hammock posts – lugged, lifted and lowered into place – help UND’s main quad remain among most tranquil places in town

Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

Working for UND’s arborist over the past few years has taught senior Mason Hamel a great deal about trees on campus, including which trees need to go.

Sometimes, it turns out, the best way to maintain a healthy ecosystem for plants and humans alike is to remove trees.

But when a number of trees were taken down on the main quad (the space between Twamley Hall and the Chester Fritz Library) in recent months, Hamel recognized that something else besides shade and foliage would be missing: hammocks.

“I realized that we were taking out these spots where students often set up hammocks,” Hamel, a commercial aviation major, said. “I knew from living on campus my first couple of years that the Twamley quad area was heavily used for that purpose, and there were a lot of trees close together that were ideal for it.”

Hamel noticed this change at the heart of campus as he continued his landscaping work with UND Facilities. People weren’t using the space the same way after the removals, he said.

And today, those who frequent the quad have likely already seen the solution initiated by Hamel: large cedar posts in the mulch beds around remaining trees – new supports ready for hammocks one and all.

The installation came as a result of some crafty recycling, as well as a partnership with UND Student Government to fund the project.

“It was something that we thought would be appropriate, since the renovation of campus has been going on for a few years,” said Hamel of the recent hammock-post installation. “A lot of that effort has been to rejuvenate campus, to appeal to new students and to encourage socialization. It seemed ideal to make that happen outdoors.”

Jared Johnson, UND’s campus arborist, spoke in May following UND’s designation as a “Tree Campus” by the Arbor Day Foundation. UND archival image.

Support for hammocks abound

Jared Johnson, a landscape specialist and certified arborist at UND, said around 100 trees have been removed since he came to the University two years ago. In most cases, he was targeting trees in poor condition, susceptible to storm damage.

Now, he’s trying to incorporate new tree species with better spacing to create a “healthier canopy for the campus.” Since that spurt of removals, there has been a significant decline in storm-related debris and damage from trees, Johnson said.

Once Hamel brought the quad vacancy up with Johnson, Johnson elevated the question to his superiors at Facilities. He discovered that more people than Hamel had their eyes on the altered campus space.

“It turned out everyone was on board with developing some kind of solution,” Johnson said.

Among those interested was UND’s Student Government, where the Senate later voted to handle the costs of installing hammock supports.

And following last year’s tear-down of the driving-range nets at Ray Richards Golf Course, the Facilities crew had a host of cedar posts on-hand. Johnson saw his new charge as a perfect opportunity to make use of the spare material.

Ten posts now stand across three mulch beds on the quad. Hamel and Johnson estimate that, at max capacity, dozens of hammocks can hang around with minimal damage to the remaining trees.

Johnson remarked that most hammocks sold these days come with wide straps that reduce impact to tree trunks. Though, if possible, people should avoid using rope or other materials that will dig into the tree, he said.

“The trees there are pretty mature, so they’ll have thicker bark. The impact of hammocks will likely be minimal,” Johnson said.

According to Facilities, University IT will be installing networking equipment on Merrifield – which lines the quad – to keep people WiFi-connected outdoors. UND archival image.

The perks of ‘hanging out’

The posts will make great companions for hammock enthusiasts on campus, but the Facilities team took the project one step further by arranging for outdoor WiFi coverage in the area.

The plan, according to Johnson, is for University IT to install equipment on the back of Merrifield Hall that can extend coverage to the quad for people trying to work (or unwind) in a leisurely posture.

“It’s pretty safe to say that people will be excited about that,” said Johnson about the extended networking.

For Student Government, the project overall was worth funding because it fixed a problem that “could have easily been ignored,” said Dawson Dutchak, Student Body Vice President.

“There has been a lot of incredible progress made on campus since I’ve arrived,” Dutchak said. “But with that progress comes the potential for things to get overlooked. It would have been very easy to let students take the hit and have nowhere to hammock in the quad.”

“The fact that Facilities not only recognized a problem but worked quickly to find a solution to benefit students is truly a testament to how dedicated the University is to the student experience,” Dutchak continued. “Student Government is always happy to collaborate with various entities around campus to make students’ lives better.”

And it’s fitting that the new supports will have the UND Student Government brand inscribed on them, as it was originally a student who ran the idea up the cedar hammock post. Hamel, the senior who not only dreamed up the posts but also helped physically drive them into the ground, said it felt good to make a difference that students can immediately use and enjoy.

“It’s a neat opportunity to be able to help make some changes, and help implement things that are going to make campus better for incoming students and people who enjoy being here,” he said.